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February 2020: Geothermal Experience in Wai-O-Tapu, Rotorua
A visit from Dutch relatives triggered a trip to some of the main New Zealand tourist attractions, including the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland in Rotorua. Although visited several times before (mainly coinciding with the visit of other relatives), it always is a great experience that makes you realise that the Earth is alive.
Rotorua is located within the Taupo Volcanic Zone, a geothermal field extending from White Island off the Bay of Plenty Coast to Mt Ruapehu to the south. As a result, Rotorua is close to an array of geothermal features, including volcanic crater lakes, spouting geysers, bubbling mud pools, hissing fumaroles and colourful sinter terraces.
Apart from visiting the freely accessible attractions such as the steamy Kuirau Park right within Rotorua, we picked the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland to see geothermal activity in action.
The Lady Knox Geyser erupts daily at 10:15 to heights of 10 to 20 metres. The regularity is due to park staff inducing the eruption by dropping a detergent or similar surfactant into the opening of the vent. Quite spectacular, but at the height of the tourist season it was very crowded, difficult to see, and a very slow drive back to the main park.
One of the first features you see when walking inside the park, is the Devil’s Home. It’s a sulphur crater with walls that are subtly painted in yellows and greens by volcanic vapours escaping from the pit.
Lady Knox Geyser
The Devil's Home
The main feature of the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is the Champagne Pool. This large hot water pool occupies a 700-year-old crater that was formed by a hydrothermal eruption and reaches a depth of 623 metres. At the bottom, the water temperature is about 230 degrees, reducing to about 74 degrees celcius at the surface. The bubbles that rise out of the Champagne Pool are caused by carbon dioxide. The distinctive orange rim around the edge contains the minerals arsenic ad antimony sulphur.
Artist's Palette and Champagne Pool Panaroma
Detail of the Champagne Pool
The Champagne Pool
Admiring the Champagne Pool
The Devil’s Bath may not have as many active reactions as other features at Wai-O-Tapu's geothermal wonderland, but it is one of the most eye-catching pools. This electric green lake looks bizarre and owes its colour to sulphur and ferrous salts that rise up from the bottom.
The Devil's Bath
The Mud Pool just outside the main park is impressive and not be missed. Waiotapu occupies the site of what was formerly the largest mud volcano in New Zealand and this large pool of boiling, exploding mud is a remainder of that. You can stand here a long time watching and listening to the bubbles of mud that form as a result of steam and gasses and burst with a pop.
Exploding Mud (1)
Exploding Mud (2)
Exploding Mud (3)
Frying Pan Flat from Lookout
The green colour of Lake Ngakoro
Detail of the Primrose Terrace